Tensions continue to build on Wet’suwet’en territory near Houston, B.C., as Coastal GasLink, a company building a natural gas pipeline brings in its drilling equipment.
On Sept. 25, Gidimt’en Access Point, members of the Gidimt’en clan, erected new blockades at various points on the Morice West Forest Service Rd.
Gidimt’en say the blockades are to stop Coastal GasLink from drilling on Wedzin Kwa River also known as the Morice River.
Coastal Gaslink is the builder of the 670 km natural gas pipeline that runs from northeastern B.C., through Wet’suwet’en territory to an LNG facility in Kitimat on the coast.
According to a media release from Gidimt’en Access Point, drilling at the headwaters that supply their lands would be disastrous for their people and salmon.
Yesterday, Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham), a spokesperson for Gidimt’en Access Point, posted a video to social media giving an update from the territory.
“This is the fight of our lives. Drilling under Wedzin Kwa would absolutely devastate everything that is important to us,” she said.
APTN News contacted Gidimt’en Access Point but our calls were not returned.
The Wet’suwet’en dispute over the pipeline led to solidarity protests across Canada in 2020.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline has consent from 20 elected Indian Act First Nation bands along the route, but Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs remain opposed.
Their hereditary chiefs, along with the Gitxsan, successfully argued their title exists in the Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa Supreme Court Case of Canada, which concluded in 1997.
Both Gidimt’en and Unist’ot’en land re-occupation locations has remained active through the pandemic.
The pipeline project work continued throughout and according to Coastal Gaslink’s September report, over one-third of the construction is complete.
APTN asked for an interview with Coastal GasLink but on Sept. 28, president Tracy Robinson sent a statement on the drilling that is taking place instead.
“The clearing is now complete, and our crews will utilize a micro-tunnel method which is a type of trenchless crossing that is constructed well below the riverbed and does not disturb the stream or the bed and banks of the river,” the statement read.
She added that micro-tuning was deemed to be the safest method.
“Micro-tunnelling was determined to be the safest and most environmentally responsible method after thorough expert assessments, regulatory requirements and best practices, she said.
Robinson added there is an injunction in place that allows them to complete their work.
“Coastal GasLink’s activities are permitted, and in order to safely conduct our work, an enforceable injunction is in place that prohibits interference with our construction activities, including those within the vicinity of the Morice River,” she added.
Tensions are building in the territory again
Last week, in another social media video, Sleydo’ confronted a Coastal GasLink archeology team and its security team over work being done in what they describe as a historic site.
In the video, heavy machinery and grounds are dug up, with Sleydo’ asking workers about artifacts.
According to the press release, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say they didn’t give consent for that work to compete.
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Madonna Sanderson sent an emailed statement to APTN News stating that Houston RCMP were called about blockades and made two arrests.
“Two individuals have since been arrested; one on Saturday, September 26 for breach of the injunction and Criminal Code charges of obstruction and assaulting a police officer, and the other person was arrested on Monday, September 27, 2021 for breach of the injunction,” the statement read.
She added RCMP’s liaison team is trying to contact the hereditary chiefs.
“There is a police presence in the area, and our Division Liaison Team is engaged. Efforts are being made to speak with the Hereditary Chiefs regarding this matter. Presently there is no exclusion zone in place,” she said.
The Gid’imten noted the increased police presence in the area.
Yesterday, Sleydo’ said the bus that was blockading the road was removed.
“Currently, the bus has been retaken and we’re here on the Yintah making sure this area is safe for future generations,” she said.
There is now a social media callout for Wet’suwet’en territory supporters to their territory or Yintah to join their blockades.